Wyndham Lakes - Jacksonville

Assisted Living vs Memory Care Facilities | What’s the Difference?

Considering care options for your loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia? One question many have is the difference between assisted living vs memory care.

In this short article, we’ll clearly lay out the differences so you can better understand which option is best for your loved one.

Assisted Living vs Memory Care

The placement decision is a difficult one. And one fraught with emotion.

There are a lot of options out there. And one of the big ones people look into is assisted living vs a dedicated memory care facility.

Which of those is the best option for your loved one depends on many factors. These factors include:

  • The level of care they currently need
  • Future care needs
  • Personal living preferences
  • Proximity to friends and loved ones

As you look into care options, it’s important to understand the difference between the two main types of facilities – assisted living and memory care.

Needing Extra Assistance

As our senior loved one’s age, we expect them to need at least a little extra assistance. This may include:

  • Transportation
  • Help with meal preparation
  • Light housekeeping
  • Companionship

Remaining active and social is an essential part of senior wellness. And participating in family events, maintaining hobbies, and getting regular exercise are all important.

But for seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia, daily activities and personal care are more challenging. Dementia can cause decreased mobility, damaged cognitive function, and confusion. All this can make cooking, driving, and social activities all but impossible.

Because of this, seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia respond differently to senior care services and activities. Dedicated memory care facilities were created to meet these unique needs.

So let’s look at how dedicated memory care facility differ from general assisted living facilities. Because understanding this will help your family choose the best care setting for your loved one.

Residential Alzheimer’s Facilities

Here’s an easy way to understand what residential memory care is. Simply break the name into parts.

The first part is “residential.” This means that seniors live in a home setting. Or “communal” style living. This often includes a private room, shared living spaces, and activities – all within one facility or unit.

The second part is “memory care”. This means the focus is on caring for those with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Residential memory care facilities are designed to meet the needs of those with Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, and other memory-related diseases.

Trained staff members may include skilled caregivers, nurses, occupational therapists, and medical doctors. This means they have staff with a diverse skill set. And that helps memory care facilities better address the physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual well-being of residents with dementia.

How Memory Care is Different

In assisted living communities, residents are often more independent and require little supervision. This type of care setting might be okay for those with early or middle-stage Alzheimer’s.

However, as the disease advances, care requirements increase. At this stage there a few big differences between basic assisted living and Alzheimer’s facilities to be aware of.

Safety Checks and Supervision

Memory care facilities keep a closer eye on the safety and security of residents. They need to because of the cognitive and behavioral changes that come with dementia. In this type of setting, the staff can form close relationships with residents and learn how to best communicate with them.

Enrichment Activities & Socialization

Assisted living facilities often have social activities such as bingo, card games, movies, or shared meals. For seniors with Alzheimer’s, these types of activities may be frustrating, cause anxiety, or simply be unenjoyable.

Residential Alzheimer’s facilities create activities that are stimulating and meaningful for those with dementia. This might include sensory objects, puzzles, music therapy, or light exercise.

Skills, Training, and Number of Staff

Memory care facilities often have a lower patient-to-staff ratio. This lets them provide the best care for residents with dementia.


Well, consistency is key when providing memory care. Seniors with dementia may become agitated or confused by new faces every day.

Having the same care team will help your loved one be more comfortable. And it will also allow the staff to truly understand their personality and unique needs so they can provide personalized care and attention.

Determining When It Is Time for Memory Care

Making the decision to start memory care for your loved one is not easy.

But when it’s time, the first step is recognizing that there are options for specialized memory care facilities close to home.

Could your loved one benefit from part-time adult day care services or complete residential dementia care? If so, reach out to some of the memory care facilities near you. To find a facility nearby, check out our directory here.

By researching the local options, you can find a memory care facility where your loved one will be surrounded by well-trained and loving people who genuinely care for them.